The. Course. Is. Over!
About three or four days ago I actually doubted whether or not I would make it. I felt like I wasn’t good at assessing casualties, I couldn’t tie knots correctly, there was no way I was going to remember how to tow a boat properly, and I always seemed to panic in triage situations. In between sessions, I would sit on my bed for the few minutes that were allotted to me and I would pander how many more times I’d have to get into my wetsuit, how many more potential knots I’d have to tie, how many more presentations would be put in front of me in an effort to cram more information into my brain.
But here I am, on the other side of it. It’s done. And the certificates are in my hands. The course is complete and, perhaps, I’m a little wiser because of it.
The instructors informed us this week that for today, our final day of seagoing, we would be having a review day, a chance to redo any of the maneuvers and lessons we had learned over the week if there was something we weren’t sure about. This turned out to be a massive lie as we all arrived from breakfast, ready to suit up and spend our last day at sea only to walk into yet another mock scenario. On the slipway, there was a massive white board with a message written on it. The scenario was that there had been a boat crash and multiple people were lost at sea. We had three boats to rescue them. Having failed miserably a week ago when given a surprise triage situation, we did our best to delegate who would do what and to better prepare ourselves for the situation.
Almost everyone ran to get into their wetsuits, but one woman and I ran to the sea instead to see if we could see any casualties from shore. As we ran up the steps, we saw a radio and a map that had been left for us to assist with the rescue. There was also a pair of binoculars on the table, which I grabbed and began scanning the horizon with. After quite some time, I was able to find two boats bobbing in the water, miles from shore. Unfortunately, at this point, we had already scrambled to launch two of our three boats and they were headed in the wrong direction. The third boat went in the right direction, but they didn’t get to the casualties anywhere near as quickly as they could have if our communication was better.
And so commenced a two-hour scenario in which we were trying to orchestrate this rescue. There were only a few of us left on shore as most of the team opted to get into the boats. This wasn’t well thought out. Most people wanted to be heroic and be in the boats that were scooping people out of the sea, but we really could have used more help on land, especially as casualties were beginning to be delivered to us and we had to pull the boats in and take care of the hurt people. This was the coolest part of the whole ordeal. We were rescuing people at sea and assisting them by using what we’d learned from all of our casualty care courses throughout the week.
Feeling overwhelmed, a boat came in and dropped off our second casualty who a few others and I helped from the boat and brought onto the land. Spread really thin at this point, as one person had to be “Beach Master” and wait in the water, two people were on the radio, and one person was helping the casualties, I noticed ten of our instructors behind me climbing out of the woods. Right away, I knew that they were going to become part of the scenario. And they did. We got the radio call five seconds later telling us that there had been multiple stabbings on a boat and the casualties had washed ashore. There were only two of us able to even go over to this mob of hurt people, and the boats were coming in for landing at the same time, requiring assistance in order to get them to shore.
Prior to the second round of casualties erupting onto the scene after an hour of getting people from the sea to shore safely, one of my colleagues had said to me, “I’m just waiting for the whistle to blow” signaling that the scenario would be over. But it stretched on for hours. And we didn’t do the best job “rescuing” all of the hurt people on shore.
In the afternoon, we took our written exam, which was 40 multiple choice questions about everything we’d learned about casualty care over the past 10 days. It wasn’t anything overly difficult, but I definitely had to focus on what I was doing and ended up using the entirety of the hour allotted to us. As soon as our exam was over, we were tossed into one final lecture about assisting in giving birth. I could hardly believe that after our grueling morning and our exam that we were actually being expected to sit through yet another lecture, but of course, it proved to be interesting and I learned a few things about babies that rush to come into this world. My takeaway was that I think I’d rather not be around unexpectedly for the birth of a baby.
When that final lecture finished, I could hardly believe that the course was over.
In the evening, we did not have dinner scheduled as usual, but rather there was a farewell barbecue. Our certificates were handed out and everyone enjoyed their final evening of mingling with like-minded people. I realized that I hadn’t gotten to know everyone as much as I would have liked, but I also knew that this would have come at the expense of getting an adequate amount of sleep and being able to fully focus on the course. When my name was called to collect my certificate, the man announcing my name said something along the lines of, “he always had a smile on during this course” which sounded like a steaming pile of bullshit to me. I think he was just trying to come up with something unique to say as he had already called twenty or thirty names before me. I certainly did not feel like I had a smile on at all for this course.